The Telegram (St. John's)

James F. Mccoubrey, 111 years old: a life complete


James Foster McCoubrey, born Sept. 13, 1901, was 111 years old at his death on July 5, 2013.

At 111 years of age, McCoubrey was the oldest living man in California, the oldest man ever who was born in Canada, and has been a contender for recognitio­n as the oldest man in the world since June 11, 2013, when the man who previously held that designatio­n died in Japan.

McCoubrey died in Walnut Creek, Calif., of natural causes.

Throughout his life he was curious, fearless and romantic. “Keep breathing and drink good Scotch,” was his advice to those seeking the secret of long life.

McCoubrey was born in St. John’s to George Andrew McCoubrey, a marine engineer, and Jennie Isabel Foster McCoubrey. He had one sibling, an older brother, Charles. After his father’s death in 1904, he lived in Halifax. with his aunt Mary Foster until 1909, when he joined his mother in Cambridge, Mass. His mother married American James Hicks in 1910, and McCoubrey became an American citizen.

McCoubrey was a self-made man. His formal schooling ended in the eighth grade so that he could work to help support his family, later taking high school classes at night. He enlisted in the military to fight in the First World War, but was underage and his mother foiled his plan on the eve of his departure to Europe. At the Boston Insurance Company, he specialize­d in marine insurance, and at one point worked to insure the C.A. Thayer, a three-masted lumber schooner then plying its trade on the west coast, now a historic ship moored at the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park.

McCoubrey parlayed his insurance experience into a business insuring motorcycle­s. He attended motorcycle hill climbs, his own motorcycle fitted out with the sign “Insure with a Rider.” He provided insurance services in Massachuse­tts to the expanding motorcycle company of Mssrs. Harley and Davidson, later donating his early correspond­ence with them to the HarleyDavi­dson Archives.

In 1923 he married his beloved wife, Rose Helga Aurora Nordbeck, after courting her in a canoe on the Charles River, a portable Victrola in the stern. During the 1920s, he and Rose purchased their Boston home at 1034 Commonweal­th Ave., which was across the street from Braves Field, home of the Boston Braves, where McCoubrey attended many games. Their only child, Patricia, was born in 1929.

From the late 1920s until his retirement in 1965, McCoubrey owned and operated Clifco Heat, a heating oil and oil burner business. He was a member of the vestry at St. Luke’s in Allston, Mass. He also was a 32nd degree Mason.

In 1934 he survived a life-threatenin­g bout of pneumonia, despite “treatment” that included hanging wet sheets over the open windows of his bedroom during a cold Boston winter while he slept.

He and Rose purchased a small summer house on Muddy Pond in North Woodstock, Conn., named “Pinehurst,” where the family spent many happy summer days and McCoubrey could indulge his passion for fishing.

After retirement, McCoubrey and his wife took annual cross-country trips to visit their daughter Patricia, her husband, James Salveson, and their grandchild­ren, Elizabeth and James. They spent the late fall and winter with Patricia and her family on the west coast before returning to Pinehurst to enjoy the warm spring and summer months, and the fall leaves.

McCoubrey outfitted his car with a CB radio and kept up on road conditions by talking with truckers. He was a voracious reader, reading newspapers from front to back each day, biographie­s and novels. He did crossword puzzles every day until he was about 105. After Rose died in 1992, he moved to Walnut Creek, Calif., permanentl­y to live with his daughter and son-in-law.

His brother Charles died about the same time.

At the age of 95, McCoubrey learned to use the computer. He surfed the Internet and visited senior chat rooms, where he enjoyed letting people believe he was only 65.

At 110, he became a supercente­narian, and his age was verified by the Gerontolog­y Research Group (GRG).

At the death of the previous oldest man in the world June 11, 2013, McCoubrey was the oldest man in the world whose documentat­ion had been verified by GRG.

Even though he lived to an extraordin­ary age, McCoubrey was always young at heart. Nothing made him happier than to enjoy the company of his four great-grandchild­ren, Benjamin and Samuel Heldt, and Eric and Caroline Salveson. He is survived by his daughter, Patricia and son-in-law James Salveson, his grandchild­ren and great-grandchild­ren.

 ?? — Submitted photo ?? James McCoubrey, born Sept.13, 1901, in St. John’s. Died July 5, 2013, in Walnut Creek, Calif., aged 111 years.
— Submitted photo James McCoubrey, born Sept.13, 1901, in St. John’s. Died July 5, 2013, in Walnut Creek, Calif., aged 111 years.

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